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in the News - workers' compensation law

Avoiding the Employment Relationship

In order to avoid the effects of the workers' compensation system, some employers will deliberately categorize a person as an individual contractor instead of an employee. Some individuals may even categorize themselves as individual contractors, preferring to reject the compensation system. Whether this categorization is successful, however, turns not just on the name given to the employment relationship. Rather, each relationship is examined on its own facts and will be decided based on the conduct exhibited between the parties as well as the work contract entered into between them.

Compensation for Federal Employees

As opposed to state Workers' Compensation Acts, federal employees who receive on-the-job injuries are specifically covered by the Federal Employee Compensation Act (FECA). FECA operates much like state statutes; it outlines a no-fault system that provides federal employees with fixed benefits in exchange for the loss of the right to sue the government. FECA covers both the disability and death of a federal employee, and outlines the types of benefits available to a federal employee in either event.

"Third Person" Entities

An employee who is injured during the course of his employment may, in addition to workers' compensation, seek damages in a third party action. Whether the employee of a subsidiary may sue the parent corporation, or vice versa, to recover damages for his injury is dependent on the jurisdiction. Though most often an affiliated corporation, such as a subsidiary or its parent, strives to maintain its independence from the other entity so as to be shielded by the corporate veil, in cases of worker injury such entities claim mutual identity to be protected from suit by the "employer's" immunity. In other words, if the injured employee works for the subsidiary, but files a third party action against the parent, the parent will argue that it stands in the shoes of the subsidiary as the employer and is thus immune from suit. This argument may very well work if the subsidiary is wholly owned and controlled by the parent.

Second Injury Funds

Oftentimes, an employee may be suffering from an injury or disability and then be subsequently injured while working for the employer. Generally, the states have addressed this issue by creating a second injury fund. For the most part, the employer is only responsible for the workers' compensation benefits attributable to the injury incurred while the employee was working for the employer. The second injury fund would pick up where the employer left off by paying the difference between what the employer pays and what the employee is entitled for the total effect of all of his injuries.

Cessation of Social Security Disability Benefits Based on Lack of Disability

Social security disability benefits are paid only so long as the individual remains disabled. The Social Security Administration (SSA) will cease paying benefits if the individual can engage in substantial gainful activity. The Social Security Disability Reform Act of 1984 established conditions for the cessation of disability benefits based on a lack of disability, which include:
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